Tuesday (Day 7)
The rain battering off the roof of the lodge through the night signalled the first significant downpour of the trip, but we hoped that leaving the area to travel the hour plus to Orgaos might find an improvement. It didn’t! We parked the van in the wet car park at the low level of the park, to alight into a light shower, although not light enough to negate the need for wet weather clothing. Luckily, the track covered during the next two hours plus is tarmac, so generally easy to cover even in the wet, although there were some slippery patches in places. It seemed likely that many of the potential birds were going to be high up towards or in the canopy, which made keeping the lenses on the optics dry difficult. However, the first significant bird made light of this, since it was the notoriously skulking Star-throated Antwren, which obliged us with good open views and flypasts over the track. A little further down, a pair of Red-crowned Ant Tanagers kicked off a bit of a feast of birds, with a mixed flock including Flame-crested & Golden-chevroned Tanagers, Plain Antvireo, Golden-crowned Warbler, and a Yellow-throated Woodpecker a few trees away. A couple of Olivaceous Woodcreepers and separate Lesser Woodcreeper were not part of the flock. At the bottom gate, where we were to turn around, a pair of Sick’s Swifts flew by. We should have known not to take off the wet weather gear, since shortly after doing this, the rain began to fall in earnest – not torrential, but enough to make birding difficult, and also to totally quieten down the birdlife. We didn’t see another bird on the climb back up to the van, and Cirilo even suggested that if the rain continue, we go back early.
We then drove the 20 minutes or so up to the upper section of the national park, where we ate our lunches in the dry comfort of the inside of the van. We started after noon, and the upper part of the park (which is along a well constructed boardwalk) in light drizzle. However, the finding of a group of Spot-winged Wood Quail, which we were able to quietly approach to only a few metres, seemed to indicate the end of the rain, and also the beginning of the excellent birding. The boardwalk follows the contour of the mountain for some way, and is a well constructed piece of engineering, allowing us to see from the undergrowth below to the tops of the canopy in relative comfort. At the same point as the Wood Quail, a male Blue Manakin posed above us, with a White-bibbed Antbird being located to the side of the walk a little further along. Only a few metres further, a pair of tiny Eared Pygmy Tyrants played around in full if not energetic view. A second White-bibbed Antbird was picked out from underneath an elevated section of the boardwalk. Three species of Woodcreepers were subsequently seen before the boardwalk turned into downward steps to the river – Olivaceous, White-throated, & Lesser. Just before the turning point, a small group of Tufted Capuchin monkeys were seen briefly below us, with another 2 against the horizon. A Squirrel Cuckoo greeted us at this point.
The decision as to whether to descend the steps, and from the base make our way back up to the van via the road was easily overrode by the need to return the way we had come – along the boardwalk. We had unfinished business with one or two notable absentees, making this was a no brainer. It also turned out to be an excellent couple of hours for good birds. Again from the top of the steps, a flock of Tanagers was seen to be passing through, including Black-goggled, Red-necked, & a good number of Brassy-breasted. Another Olivaceous Woodcreeper, this with an almost yellow breast, was also here, as well as a couple of Spot-billed Toucanets. Then came what was probably the sighting of the day, if not the trip. A Pin-tailed Manakin was hopping briefly from tree to tree above us, and quickly came to rest on a favoured branch where it posed for at least 5 minutes. There then followed a mad period when a string of individual species which are often hard to find appeared either alone or in pairs – Rufous Gnateater (pair, initially one landed on hand rail and then again on the opposite side); Mouse-coloured Tapaculo (pair – both seen well in the undergrowth); Giant Antshrike (female, which had called a few times before being pinned down); and Rufous-breasted Leaftosser (individual seen tossing leaves!). If this wasn’t sufficient, we then locked on to a bird wave, which we followed for some time. Many of the birds eventually came quite close, and included Scaled Woodcreeper, Chestnut-crowned Becard, White-rimmed Warbler (several on the boardwalk and its hand rails), White-browed & White-collared Foliage Gleaner (both next to the boardwalk), Brown Tanager (pair above), and Surucua Trogon (a posing male). Just for good measure, a Euler’s Flycatcher was hawking from the hand rail in front of us.
Finished yet? No chance! On the journey back, and in the half light, Cirilo pulled the van to a sudden halt to pick out 5 Roseate Spoonbills (new to him), 7 Brazilian Teal, and a Common Nighthawk (new to Serra dos Tucanos list) flying over them and the small pool which they were inhabiting.